One of the most frequent questions I get about homeschooling is, “Do you need to join a homeschool association?” so I thought I would share a little about our choice and why we’ve made it.
First, as with all things homeschool, it is important to know the law where you live. In Michigan, homeschool has very few regulations so we have a great deal of freedom in our choices. State’s requirements vary widely. Always know the law and be sure that you are in compliance. HSLDA is a great place to start if you have legal questions.
Though we were not required to do so by law, we did choose to join a local group. Two of the ladies who helped us make our transition from public school were already active with the association and we knew at least one or two additional families involved. These were all people we knew and respected and we knew their bright, polite, active, well-spoken children. It never really occurred to us not to follow their example that first year.
Our second year, when we got our application, I asked my husband if he thought we should sign up and pay the dues again. He didn’t even hesitate. “Absolutely!”
The group we belong to is for homeschool families from all over the county. This makes sense where we live because, though some of the families are an hour’s drive away, this is a rural area and having a larger geographical area means we are able to include more families and offer more to everyone involved.
The last figure I heard was that there was just under 100 families involved in our group. With most families having more than one child, you can see that this creates a range of children similar to what you would find in a small rural school district.
Our association is Christian faith-based and we had to sign a statement of faith and a code of conduct before joining. I know there is at least one other organization in our county and I’m not sure what their requirements are but I’m sure that most groups have you sign something similar, even if it’s not specifically Christian.
Now that you know a little about what our homeschool association looks like, here are a few of the reasons why we feel it’s worth the very small fee (only $30 per year) to be a part of it:
Homeschooling can be difficult and lonely. Through the association, we have an entire network of families we can turn to and say, “my child is struggling with this. Where can we get help?” Often I see members on the Facebook board asking, “What curriculum would you recommend for ___?” or “Is there anyone who is familiar with the application requirements for a homeschool graduate wanting to attend XYZ University?”
Sometimes the parents are able to form groups that trade off skills and time. “I’ll teach your family and mine science on Tuesdays and Thursday so you can have that time to yourself. You teach my family art and music on Mondays and Wednesdays.”
The moms sometimes take time to do something, just with the other moms or the dads just with the other dads. Grown up time can save a person’s sanity!
Curriculum books and online subscriptions can cost hundreds of dollars. Through our association it is often possible to buy the things we need, used, from another family at a fraction of the new cost. In one case I was able to borrow a very expensive math text that I thought I wanted to purchase. A month or so in, we realized it was not at all a good fit for us and I ended up going in an entirely different direction. That one instance saved us enough money to balance out the cost of our first several years’ membership.
Also, as members of the association we get official membership ID cards that give us tax breaks and discounts at many craft stores and book stores in the area.
3) Extra-curricular activities, Field Trips & Academic Clubs
People often worry that homeschool kids are going to miss out on many of the “normal” parts of growing up in our society. Being a part of an association gives kids many of those opportunities. Our group offers competitive sports teams, spelling bees, gym classes, dances and parties, field trips, and academic clubs.
There are some activities that the association doesn’t directly offer but they help make the members aware of these opportunities in the area. For example Sweet Hippie Daughter is in the homeschool band. This is not through our local association, but through the National Homeschool Music Ensembles. However, it was through the association that we learned of this group. The same is true of her archery classes.
Beyond the extra-curricular activities you would expect, we have been given several opportunities to participate in community service projects. I love that! I think it is wonderful that helping host a party for senior citizens in a nursing home or packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child is part of my children’s schooling.
“Field trips” are usually trips to the fire station, the pumpkin farm or a local factory but many of the families plan major events together. I know, just this year I’ve gotten emails about camping, going to Washington DC and skiing. We haven’t yet done any of the bigger outings, but there’s a good chance we will as the kids get a little older.
To me, the homeschool association is like a big beautiful buffet. You couldn’t and shouldn’t and wouldn’t want to eat every single thing that is offered at the buffet, but it’s wonderful to have all those lovely choices so nicely laid out for you.
We don’t participate in most of the activities our homeschool association offers. There are just too many. But we have benefitted greatly from those we have taken part in and, especially as our children move into their middle school and high school years, it will be nice to know that they have all of those opportunities available to them.
Are you a part of a homeschool association? Why is it valuable to you?
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!